First and foremost, who is Defender of the Art and where do you reside?
Defender of the Art is an emcee that resides in Twinsburg, Ohio. I defend the art of love, peace, God and hip hop by rocking mikes.
Describe the hip hop scene in Ohio?
I was real naïve to the hip hop scene in Ohio when I first got started but as I started to get more and more into promotion, you learn there’s a lot to offer here in Ohio. Scribbling Idiots, PumpkinFoot, MC Till, Copywrite, Early bird, Jean P, DonWill and more all reside here. Cincinnati and Cleveland and some surrounding areas all have great hip hop scenes. I think the OH is massively underrated with places like California, New York, North Carolina and Georgia.
Describe the struggle associated with being a student, a fan and an artist in an industry that is dominated by ignorance?
Student > Promoter/Fan > Artist that’s how I live my life.
It’s funny how all three facets of my life effect each other. My student life effects how much time I can actually devote to writing. When I’m taking classes and stuff I can fit in maybe a review or two in a quarter and even that’s hard to do because I can only really listen to music for review purposes while I’m walking to class. I like my reviews to be precise, so having time that I can devote to the album I’m reviewing is tough to come by.
In terms of actually handling my own music can be even more difficult. I’m not going to front there are times where I spend class time writing rhymes, but for the most part the only time when I can actually sit down develop project concepts and plan is over break.
Being a fan and a promoter is a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one side I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of artists about their respective projects and build with them on that level. But when you take off your promoter hat and put on your artist hat, the relationship with these artists change. I’m a guy just starting off in the game, these are guys who’ve paid their dues and a lot of times when they see a young whipper snapper like myself come in and try to rap sometimes you get thrown in with the “wannabees” if you will.
How long have you been rhyming and what inspired you to pick up the mic?
I’ve been rhyming for almost 3 years now, I started in my senior year of high school (2009). I had always been a writer, writing for my newspaper, writing stories and more. My problem growing up was that I had a lot of things I wanted to get off my chest but no real way of doing it.
One day in my AP Composition class I wrote a song and after that my friend asked me to perform at a charity event. That went well and after I was asked to perform again and people were surprised at my ability. That same summer I started to write more and released a couple mixtapes (not my best work, looking back haha) and from there it’s history.
At the end of the day my music is inspired by the darkness I see in the world and wanting to bring social change to a world that needs. Also I use my music as a way to vent the pain I feel, some people call it Emo-Rap I call it real-life rap, it’s therapeutic for me. Lastly bringing the Word of God to the masses too, we’re living through the darkest of times and they’re only going to get darker. God is the light and I want to spread it.
Recently you released a phenomenal project called The Psych Ward. What did you want to present to the masses with this project?
The Psych Ward was a dark opus. The mixtape was inspired by a couple of dark albums including Cas Metah’s Providence Road Kno’s Death Is Silent and more. Both of those guys talked about some serious pain and struggle in those projects and I thought about doing a whole project geared around that. The idea was to get the listener to relate to me. If you listen to this song you’ll find something that you can relate to I promise. The whole concept was Pain, if I had one word to describe it, it would be pain. If there’s something I wanted you to take away from the project was that after all the things you’ve gone through it is possible to put it behind you and to live life to the fullest and be “Not Afraid”.
The thing that I value the most about the project is your brutal honesty. I enjoy the fact that you are not afraid to talk about your life in explicit detail. What are some of the benefits of being brutally honest?
One of the benefits of brutally honest is connecting to the listener, now a days especially in the mainstream there is a disconnect between the artist and the listener. I connect directly with them by talking about things that chances are they’ve gone through and maybe some things they haven’t. I think brutal honesty is something that’s missing in hip hop or at least it doesn’t play a prominent part in the genre even in the underground. Braille’s “Weapon Aid” was the last real album that I’ve heard from front to back use brutal honesty as a concept in terms of pain and suffering.
You also maintain a hip-hop site that caters to a variety of genres, most specifically Christian hip hop. How do you balance being an artist and a promoter?
That’s definitely something I’m still learning how to do. I really wasn’t able to push The Psych Ward like I wanted to, mostly on Twitter. I’ve always put my reviews of other artists before I promote my own music and it helps because I think while promoting other artists I’m pushing the Christian Hip Hop industry forward. At the same time though I’m hurting my own brand when I’m not tweeting about it or posting a link about my project.
What is your favorite song from The Psych Ward?
My favorite one to write was “ProPain III” but my favorite song is “Gun” I told a legitimate story and kind of through a lot of topics into one song: the pain of rejection, suicide and the power of words. The last 8 bars of that song were meant to really get to the listener emotionally, those bars were meant to represent a breaking point, but at that point the right decision was made...to push on.
As an independent artist I find that is hard to just be an artist. An independent artist has to wear many hats and that takes away from the actual music. How do you plan to deal with this dilemma in the future? Will you have your friends help you with marketing and others stuff?
The Psych Ward was the first real project where I went through the entire process of music. From writing, recording, mixing and mastering, determining a single, trying to get the single out to people and eventually releasing the project.
Through this process I’ve learned that I’ve got a lot of people and tools at my disposal that are willing to help a brother out. People such as yourself, and Street Evan and more. Being a guy who’s just started in music and whatnot I was nervous to hit up people who had been in the game a lot longer than me and was afraid of being turned down.
But after “The Psych Ward” I’m honestly ready to hit up people for help. I’ve turned a few heads with this project, that much I know and one thing I’ve wanted to do with my music career is build a conglomerate of people that are willing to get together for the sole goal of pushing the genre forward through whatever that person can
offer (verses, mixing, mastering, cover art, production etc.).
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Currently working on the writing for The Psych Ward 2: Depression/Anger Management I won’t reveal exactly what’s going down for it just yet, but I’m excited about people jumping on the project and where I’m going with the idea.
What are some of your interests outside of hip-hop? What are you studying at Ohio University?
I live, breathe, eat and sleep, basketball and video games. I’m studying Sociology at Ohio University and am graduating with a bachelor’s degree next year (man does time fly or what?).
How can the fans get in contact with you?
You can hit me up on the email firstname.lastname@example.org make sure you follow me on Twitter.
Any final words?
Gotta thank everyone for the support they’ve shown me. Peace to Street Evan, Procyse, Lyriz, DJ Ishine, Chican George, Micah Spencer, Stephen Maddox, Drooh the Nomad, Paradox, Joe Deans, Christopher Hearn and of course yourself for hooking up this review.
Go download The Psych Ward at my Bandcamp page
And make sure you peep my reviews at Big Sto's Weblog